Well, ho-lee shit. Been promising to review Sucker Punch for a while and now I finally get to talk about it in frank and hopefully upsetting terms.
Sucker Punch (2011)
The raison d’être of this very blog has always been about defending blockbusters from the snooty and the pretentious. Respected film critics normally tear “dumb but fun” titles limb from metaphorical limb in favour of recommending a foreign film showing in about 2 cinemas nationwide. Most people live in the mainstream and as such, I set up this blog to separate the blockbustin’ wheat from the chaff. I felt that there weren’t enough eloquent voices proclaiming that Rib Kicker 7: The Fistening may actually be more enjoyable than Holocaust Winter’s Tears. On this blog, I have repeatedly mentioned that I love action films and have enjoyed the work of much maligned directors like Michael Bay and indeed, Sucker Punch‘s own Zack Snyder. As much as I was prepared to, I can’t defend Sucker Punch. It’s aggressively shit.
“For those who fight for it, life has a flavour the sheltered will never know.”
The film starts with Babydoll (Emily Browning) being taken to a mental asylum after shooting at her bastardly stepfather and accidentally hitting and killing her younger sister instead. Whilst there, she and her fellow inmates hatch an escape plan, the elements of which are shown to us via Babydoll’s imagination, taking us to places like a snowy feudal Japan with minigun-toting stone samurai and the muddy trenches of World War II, populated by (and I’m not making this up) clockwork, steam-powered zombie Nazis. The plot plays out like Inception for morons. Whilst this is a lazy comparison, the multitude of layers make it hard to compare to anything else. Despite the many, many problems with this film, the casting isn’t one of them. The girls aren’t given too much to work with, but do admirably with what they’re given. I liked Emily Browning and was pleased to see Vanessa Hudgens break free of her High School Musical shackles. Zack Snyder is clearly the problem here, unused to the boundary-free environment of making an original film as opposed to his usual modus operandi of adapting already successful stories.
So, what’s my beef with all this? Well, Sucker Punch makes no fucking sense. I don’t care if I seem stupid by saying that and get literally one e-mail telling me I’ve missed the point entirely and should seriously consider suicide because I’m a thick, thick, thicky faggot. We are meant to accept that Babydoll goes into a fantasy world to escape the horror of her situation. Right, with you so far, SP. So, to combat the fact she’s in a mental asylum she imagines that she and her inmates are actually in a burlesque club, performing for sweaty wankers. Er…ok. Then, whilst dancing in said club, she imagines that the gang are actually kick-ass warriors fighting things like Nazis, dragons and conservative dress-sense, all to achieve something like a key or a map. Thing is, all these fantasies are unpleasant. Surely there should be some rainbows or unicorns or some shit? To escape a shitty situation by imagining another shitty situation doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s like a man finding the charred remains of his beloved pet dog and to escape the despair of it all imagines a scenario where he’s gang-raped in prison by three well-hung, not to mention angry, oiled men.
The film is also over-sexualised in a way I only thought possible in Japanese video games about volleyball. Babydoll herself has ickle blonde pigtails and a skirt so short you could see what she’d had for dinner if she bent over. It’s also explicitly mentioned that she’s 20, presumedly to appease the Nuts magazine demographic already abusing themselves over her, happy to not add an element of paedophilia to their public masturbation rapsheet. I suppose the argument could be that the pin-up look of the girls is some kind of female empowerment, playing with the very concept of the male gaze, but it’s doubtful. The film doesn’t show enough intelligence elsewhere to make this a viable interpretation. Having said all that, it is nice to see a film with a 90% female cast, with men only popping up occasionally to be act like knobheads.
Still, Sucker Punch is, at its heart, an action film and as such mere contrivances like plot and cleavage visibility shouldn’t get in the way of explosions and people getting their shit wrecked. Unfortunately, the film goes for the ridiculous Resident Evil style action sequences, where everything seems to be geared to impressing the thick twats that think Afterlife and films of its ilk are the “best filmz evarrr”. Zack Snyder still can’t keep his fucking finger off the slo-mo button. The action bits feel like they’ve been ripped off from better films and then smeared with pus. The imagined quest for a lighter in particular feels like Lord of the Rings with added aeroplanes and assorted toss. The aforementioned clockwork Nazis bit isn’t nearly as entertaining as it sounds either. As with the Resi Evil films, this type of action bored me to tears. This was not helped by the fact that for some reason, these sequences are often scored with mediocre cast-recorded covers of popular songs, the most aurally offensive being the opening Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) and the crappy version of Tomorrow Never Knows.
“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
If I was 13 again and had taken several bricks to the head, I may have enjoyed Sucker Punch. It’s glossy as hell and will impress a fraction of the populace with its visuals alone. Many people have described it as several music videos stitched together and I’m with them on that. It’s all just too juvenile with annoying misconceptions of being a lot smarter than it is. The central conceit is flawed and the action just made me wish I was watching something else. It’s actively dire.